Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

clevercactus share, take 2

So, you're racing ahead to finish a release and all you see is code and product and small details and the million things that you think are crucial (that maybe are, and maybe aren't) and you miss other stuff.

Stuff, like explaining why there isn't a way to register.

Or explaining what does this have to do with what you were doing before, particularly for the generous and dedicated people that have been giving you feedback on your (other) product over months and months, to whom I'm very grateful for their support, people like John Rubier, who left a comment in the previous entry with some puzzlement (and rightfully so).

Or explaining why there isn't anything else on the website at this very minute moment aside from the application, which (again) you can't log in to unless you have been invited.

You know, small things like that.

So, first things first, an apology for the lack of context for share. As I'm writing this we are preparing a new release of the site with content that we've been working on over the last several days. But I wanted to start off here by explaining some of those things. Hopefully I'll be able to get enough in here to make it easier to understand, but if not please bear with me. If there are things that aren't clear, I'll be happy to answer them.

So, moving on to some of the, um, finer points.

What is this clevercactus share thing? Where is clevercactus pro? Why the sudden shift?

Let's take those questions in reverse order. First, the last: this is no sudden shift. We have been working on the concept and the implementation for share for several months, since late last year. Yes, we haven't been obvious about it. Part of the reason was that sometimes when you're trying to put together something which is new in some ways you can see it in your mind's eye, but you can't explain it clearly and concisely. Avoiding unnecessary hype is also important. Also, we're a small company, and we can only do so many things at once. :)

But that's as far as communication is concerned. As far as concepts, share still seems to be a bit off the target from pro. Which brings me to the second question of those three.

It's easy to see clevercactus pro and see only an email client, or a PIM, or whatever. From day one there was the plan to include P2P behavior (as was explained even on the original webpage for spaces). From very early on there was code in place to do this. We had internal versions of pro with P2P collaboration built-in since early 2003 (longtime clevercactus pro beta users might remember the "enable collaboration" switch on the configuration page, which was always turned off for public releases). But as work proceeded it became obvious that the question was less whether "to P2P or not to P2P" but finding effective solutions to do what we really want to do --easily-- and avoid constant, painful workarounds that increasingly don't work at all. Yes, this sounds like marketing-speak, but it doesn't make it any less true.

Email is broken. We all know it. But we keep using it. Why? Lack of choice is one of the main reasons. We use it to send files. To arrange meetings. To do all sorts of things it wasn't designed to do. And spam is a disaster for electronic life. But the important thing to see here is that email is not broken in itself, it is broken for the use we give it. This is an important distinction. It points to a "pincer movement" (you can tell I'm reading too many books about military history, can't you? :)) that has to be made to fix email, which really is just shorthand for "making internet collaboration & communication work better": improve email and other information management (clevercactus pro), but provide simple, easy to use tools to do what email was never meant to do in the first place.

Like, say, file sharing.

Put another way, what I'm saying is that the way to solve many of today's problems with email has nothing to do with email at all. And this happens in other areas too. Email is just one example that easy to see.

And since we're fixing broken stuff, why not other things too? Like, create an environment that is both secure and private. An environment where you know that the information is being transmitted encrypted and directly, in true P2P fashion, to the people you are sending it to. An environment where you can express properly your relationships with people you know and be able to use that (based on privacy settings that default to "maximum privacy" but can be gradually and selectively changed) to do things with your personal network, as you'd do in real life.

So clevercactus now is closing in on the second part of this "pincer movement". The release of share is not the end of clevercactus pro. It's a new beginning that finally brings to light the other part of the puzzle (as we understand it of course :-)).

As we bring back information into the site, clevercactus pro will also resurface over time within the full context that includes these ideas. Stay tuned.

And where's the registration button? I want in!

There is no registration button, since share is for now invitation-only. See the next point.

Invitation-only? I smell elitism!

Come on, admit it. That's what you were thinking. :)

At the moment, share is invitation-only for a simple reason: we care about creating a good product, and we want to improve the product before a general release that would allow anyone to create an account. We want to make sure that we have the main problems ironed out, and scalability issues solved. We will provide discussion forums, etc, and until we do it would be a disservice to users to put something out that would be confusing and where we would be unable to respond to feedback properly.

Additionally, we believe in the concept of eating our own dog food :). So we are using share ourselves as we would use it, with people we know, not sending out hundreds of invitations. That said, if you're really curious send me an email and I'll try to arrange something (no promises though). In fact I haven't yet invited all the people that I want to use the product with. So it's an ongoing process.

As you can imagine, we want people to use the product :-) but a big part of that is making the both product and the experience good, and the service reliable, and as much as we can do testing the only way to do that for us is through an incremental, limited release. We will do a general release when the kinks have been ironed out of course.

Where's the product information? Even if I did get an invitation, I want to check things out a bit before I go into the site.

As I mentioned above, we will be bringing more content online (including stuff similar to what I'm talking about in this post) over the next couple of days.

Tell me more about this P2P stuff. What's this like? Kazaa? Gnutella? Where does the data go? Will you see any of it?

This is P2P, yes, but it's not Kazaa, or Gnutella, or anything else that's out there for that matter, although the ideas have been surfacing recently. Don, for example, a few days ago talked about the pros and cons of P2P NG/Darknets, concepts with which share has some similarities.

P2P connections in share are secure and fully peer to peer. This is P2P like the Internet was at the beginning. There are no proxies involved, not even proxies within the P2P network. We only provide authentication and, if necessary, handshaking between clients. That is nice, but it creates a problem as far as connecting through some types of firewalls, and we'll be working on improving it over the next days and weeks.

This is why I was recently talking about sociable software that is useful for something more than browsing contact lists, and that allows us to use our network as a complement, rather than a replacement, of the real world, while maintaining privacy and expressing relationships properly.

So, please have some patience with us as we get our bearings. We will continue to bring new content online and I'll talk more about it here.

Phew! I might not be getting much sleep these days, but this sure is fun.

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on March 26, 2004 at 2:30 PM

announcing: clevercactus share

A few minutes past midnight we took the wraps off clevercactus share.

There are million things I want to talk about, and I'm sure there will be many questions. But that will have to wait for a little bit (just a little bit) of sleep and rest. More tomorrow!

Categories: clevercactus
Posted by diego on March 26, 2004 at 12:00 AM

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